President gives us another public holiday

Isaac Moledi and Sapa

Isaac Moledi and Sapa

The cabinet has declared May 2 a public holiday, the Department of Government Communications said yesterday.

"Yes, it has," government spokesman Themba Maseko said when asked to confirm an earlier report.

Earlier this week the media reported that President Thabo Mbeki would not declare this Thursday a public holiday - despite calls from Cosatu and Fedusa - but would instead give South Africans a day off on May 2.

The call to government was made because Human Rights Day and Good Friday fall on the same day - tomorrow.

Labour experts were already saying the unusual situation of two public holidays on the same day would cost workers a holiday if tomorrow is treated as a single public holiday.

They were responding to calls that employees were entitled to double pay even if they did not work tomorrow - or quadruple wages if they work - because of two public holidays in on the same day.

Brian Patterson, a director at the law firm Deneys Reitz, had suggested that employees should be entitled to remuneration for one day's work - if they were not afforded another public holiday this year.

Before the president's decision certain commentators had suggested that he declare an extra public holiday to compensate for the possible loss of pay for one of the public holidays tomorrow.

Patterson said Mbeki did have the power to exchange one public holiday for another.

He said employers and their employees or trade unions could reach a special agreement for extra pay or to exchange one of the public holidays for another day.

Labourwise, an online service assisting small businesses, agreed with Patterson.

It said the workers' claim was based on the premise that because the Public Holidays Act provides for a minimum of 12 public holidays, employees are entitled to be free on those days or claim remuneration for all of them.